There is increased global concern about fake news online, according to a BBC World Service poll. It also indicates mounting opposition to governments stepping in with regulation.
In the survey of 18 countries, 79 per cent of respondents said they worried about what was fake and what was real online. But in only two countries, China and the UK, did a majority want their governments to regulate the internet.
The BBC carried out a similar survey in 2010. Only 15 countries were covered by both polls. From this subset of respondents, 58 per cent said the internet should never be regulated in the latest survey, up from 51 per cent when the same question was asked seven years ago.
When it came to regulation, 67 per cent of Chinese respondents now liked the idea, while opinion was more finely balanced in the UK, with 53 per cent in favour.
The countries where people were most hostile to regulation were Greece with 84 per cent and Nigeria, where 82 per cent of people opposed the idea
Brazilians were most worried about the hazy line between the real and the fake, with 92 per cent reporting some concern. In a number of other developing countries there was a high level of unease, with figures of 90 per cent in Indonesia, 88 per cent in Nigeria and 85 per cent in Kenya.
Germany was the only nation surveyed where a narrow majority – 51 per cent – said they were not worried about this issue. In the run-up to the country’s election there have been determined efforts in Germany to root out fake news.
The survey of more than 16,000 adults was conducted by Globescan between January and April of his year.
Globescan’s chairman Doug Miller said: “These poll findings suggest that the era of ‘fake news’ may be as significant in reducing the credibility of on-line information as Edward Snowden’s 2013 National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance revelations were in reducing people’s comfort in expressing their opinions online.”